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Oklahoma State, Tulsa mend broken relationships, renew football series

BY JOHN HELSLEY, Staff Writer, Modified: September 16, 2010 at 9:08 am •  Published: September 14, 2010

Oklahoma State and Tulsa have kissed and made up since their last meetings on the football field - in the early 2000s - with a three-game fling kicking off Saturday in Stillwater.

But does the series promise a long-term future? And does either school really want one?

As the debate rages on about who the series truly benefits and 2-for-1 demands and no-win propositions, at least the two sides are talking, amicably, which wasn't the case when former TU coach Keith Burns fired shots toward Stillwater and stalled lines of communication.

"We're fine with them," said OSU associate athletic director Dave Martin, who coordinates scheduling for the Cowboys. "We did this series and four games in basketball. We've had conference calls and had (Tulsa AD) Bubba Cunningham over here for really good discussions."

Clearly, the relationship has warmed from the chill Burns created weeks before his TU debut and the 2000 season opener for both teams with this bit of popping off:

"I think we're going to pass up Oklahoma State. I think we're two programs going in different directions."

Burns, of course, is long gone, his boast becoming a running joke after his teams went 5-7, 1-10 and 1-11.

Gone, too, is former athletic director Judy McLeod, who never labored over harboring much of a relationship with OSU.

Terry Don Phillips, OSU's athletic director at the time, was quickly turned off by Burns' remarks and his - and TU's - refusal to back off of them.

"We've been informed through the media that apparently our football programs are headed in different directions," Phillips said back then. "So in regards to future scheduling, I have no comment."

Now the Oklahoma State-Tulsa series stands renewed.

"I enjoy playing them," Cunningham said. "I think it's great for the state. And I've enjoyed playing Oklahoma. I just think it's good for both schools and I'm delighted we're doing it."

And for those in favor of a continued Cimarron Turnpike Tussle, maybe it's best to enjoy what you've got in these three upcoming games.

Scheduling is getting more and more difficult in the aftermath of recent realignment, making long-term commitments difficult before egos are ever broached.

For OSU, games against TU have long been classified under the no-win category - a win is expected and mandatory, a loss is disaster.

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The third game of the current OSU-Tulsa agreement - set for 2012 at Boone Pickens Stadium - appears headed for a later year.

Recent conference realignments are creating headaches for non-conference scheduling. Big 12 schools that have scheduled ahead could face canceling or postponing non-conference games as their league schedules increase from eight to nine games. Most schools are also trying to maintain a minimum of six, seven, even eight home games, complicated in the Big 12 by an alternating schedule that will feature just four conference home games every other year.

That's an issue for the Cowboys, who have four non-conference games set for 2012 and would like to shift the TU matchup to a year when another home date is needed. OSU visits TU next fall.

"It's so complicated," said OSU associate athletic director Dave Martin, who handles football and basketball scheduling.

Scheduling has become even more of a match game, created by the imbalance in league games.

Martin is trying to move next season's Central Arkansas game, as well as a 2012 date with Rice.

He's already seen a home-and-home series with Purdue canceled when the two teams couldn't match their newly created openings. And North Carolina State has bailed on a two-game deal scheduled for 2015 and 2016.

"When you're playing nine conference games," Martin said, "it's not going to be as easy to do these home-and-home deals. It's not that you can't get them, it has to fall right."

The Cowboys do have several future series in place with Arizona, Air Force, South Alabama and Texas-San Antonio.


Overall: Cowboys lead 37-27-5. (OSU has it 38-27-5, but the 1922 game was mutually cancelled due a protest over two TU players)

Streak: OSU has won three straight - 2004, 2000 and 1999.

Last time: The Cowboys won 38-21 in Stillwater in 2004 behind Vernand Morency's 184 rushing yards and a Darrent Williams punt return for a touchdown.

Last TU win: The Golden Hurricane won 35-20 at home in 1998 as quarterback John Fitzgerald tossed three touchdown passes and the TU defense shut out OSU through most of three quarters.

Last TU win in Stillwater: 1951, 35-7.

What a rush: Barry Sanders owns the series single-game rushing record with a 304-yard performance in a 56-35 win in 1988.

Passing fancy: Tulsa's Jerry Rhome passed for 488 yards and four TDs in a 64-14 rout in 1964, the best passing day in series history.

Comeback kids: Tulsa trailed 23-3 with 8:14 remaining in 1995, but rallied to win 24-23 with three late touchdowns, including the game-winner with 16 seconds left.


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